By Aisha Tamba
Stakeholders in the financial sector convened a day-long validation workshop to assess farmers’ access to financial services.
Held in Kotu, the workshop was supported by FAO Gambia, in collaboration with Agribusiness Services Unit of the Department of Agriculture.
Morem Consultancy and Advisory Services was contracted to assess the current situation of farmers’ access to financial services in the country.
Specifically, the consultancy aims to facilitate actors in financial services sectors to participate fully in driving the value chain-based approach and revitalise agricultural-led social and economic development of the country.
The report of the consultant is now expected to serve as a basis to develop capacity building programmes for financial services providers to identify products suitable for actors in agricultural value chain (Field-to-Fork) and mitigate risk of stakeholders.
“It is expected that stakeholders in the financial sector will be able to appraise the report, proffer comments, and suggestion for comprehensive coverage of issues related to financing agriculture and agricultural activities”, one official was quoted as saying.
The director of Agribusiness Service Unit, Aba Gibril Sankarey, said the validation workshop was timely and relevant.
He said: “The validation workshop on access to finance, at the juncture it is salient to point out that informal financing is not sustainable, and much less capable of addressing the agricultural financing needs. In The Gambia, only 13 percent of the population has formal bank accounts in financial institutions. That means 87 percent of the population, of which 80 percent are in agricultural and rural sectors, use their own resources or source financing of agriculture production informally from friends, families and moneylenders, often with exorbitantly high interest rates.”
The programme manager of EU Delegation in the country, Darrell Sexstone, said the validation workshop was run under the EU funded FAO component of the ‘agriculture for economic growth and food security/nutrition to mitigate migration’ programme.
“At the start of 2017, the EU took the decision to allocate 20.5 MEUR from the 11th European Development Fund to The Gambia for a programme entitled Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security/Nutrition to Mitigate Migration’,” he added.
The FAO programme officer, Louise Yacine Tine, explained that the EU funded project entitled ‘Agriculture for Economic Growth’, is to contribute to sustainable growth in the agricultural sector to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition, improve youth involvement in employment opportunities and create an enabling environment for improved economic growth.
“The approach of the project is to invest in a market stimulation to provide the pull factor that drives commercialisation of production,” she disclosed.